We met with Frank Schönleber, who is a decisive man, clearly spoken and with strong opinions. He takes great pride in their production and will definitely be a leading influence in the Nahe region for many years to come.
The estate is very focused on Riesling wines and during our visit we only tried Riesling and narrowed in mainly on the dry wines. During the meeting with Frank we both talked about the development in the region and the ways of working at Emrich-Schönleber. The trend both at Emrich-Schönleber and among other producers in the region has been to move from sweet wines towards dry riesling. At the peak for sweet wines their production was approximately 75% sweet Riesling wines, but today it is more or less the opposite about 25%.
We talked some time about the development in Nahe and the surrounding regions. One important change was in the regulations and split of vineyards. Until 1971 the vineyards in the region were split up in much smaller sections but because of difficulties to market the wines a reform where vineyards where grouped together to larger vineyards was implemented. In some cases this has resulted in very large vineyards with many different levels of quality and soil, thereby producing wines of different expression. This is a challenge for the consumer. One unfortunate example is the Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard that today is on both sides of Monzingen, where the section on the east side is more similar to Halenberg (also on the east side). Because of this Emrich-Schönleber produces wines that are a mix of Halenberg and grapes from the east part of Frühlingsplätzchen, but these wines cannot be named after the vineyards.
In the cellar Emrich-Schönleber uses spontaneous fermentation for some of their wines, including the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines, but for the more basic Riesling wines they add yeast. The logic behind the decision is that they want to achieve a more classic Riesling expression on the basic wines, while they allow the GG and single vineyard wines to develop a more personalized and complex character, letting the terroir of the vineyard shine through. For the spontaneous fermentation their experience is that it is better to use wood vats instead of stainless steel vats.
To reach top quality in the fruit they control the yield in the vineyards. The preference is to do this proactively for example by letting grass grow between the rows, instead of using green harvest which is a more reactive action.
One important project at Emrich-Schönleber has been the recultivation of a section of Halenberg. We had the opportunity to try three different vintages of this wine made from rather young vines. This is a wine that, of course, will continue to develop as the vines get older, but in the 2015 vintage our impression is that the wine took a large step up in quality. We look forward to following the development where eventually these grapes will go into the GG bottling for Halenberg.
The wines we tasted
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling trocken
Slim fresh nose with some white stone fruit. This is carried over to the palate where we also get a sappy, fresh acidity that drives the wine. Good entry level wine with a slim and precise profile.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Lenz
Mainly grapes from Frühlingsplätzchen.
Fresh stone fruit and hints of white flower on this charming and seductive nose. Acidity is precise and pure and there is a slight sweetness in the background.
The wine has a fresh citric lime finish. A generous wine that is easy to enjoy.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling “Mineral” trocken
From soil with stony quartz slate.
The nose is very slim and slightly citric. Not much generosity here. On the palate it is all about the acidity and the strong mineral bite. We also find lemon, lime and some careful stone fruit.
Energetic but very slim and citric driven.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Riesling “Fruhtau” Trocken
From 20-25 year old vines.
Apricot, young pineapples and some lime notes. On the palate we find a fresh mineral bite and some fresh lemon notes.
The wine has a fresh finish. In total an elegant but careful and tight wine.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken
To a large extent from the vines on the steep part of Halenberg that was recently recultivated.
Initially some flint notes but then also tropical fruit, mainly stone fruit and some fresh minerals. Pure and precise nose. Zappy lemon acidity with a nice mouthwatering juiciness that stays with us in the finish. Dense and fresh tropical fruit on the palate.
This is a great Riesling wine with both energy and character.
We tried this wine a second time in the eventing and it developed fantastically during the hours it was open.
2014 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken
The wine has some residual sugar (5,7).
The nose shows petroleum and ripe, but still rather careful, fruit notes dominated by pineapple. Juicy but slightly broad acidity combined with apples and tropical fruit on a generous and enjoyable palate.
Long and juicy finish.
2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken
The wine that in later vintages is called “Halgans”. From a warm year with low acidity.
Rather open and warm nose with ripe tropical fruit and some petroleum notes. Same style is carried over to the palate where we also find some French nougat notes and hints of sweetness. The acidity is rather broad and juicy.
A wine with a more ripe and warm character.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs
Red slate, gravel and red loam. Age of vines are between 15 and 60 years.
Beautiful nose with apricot and other stone fruit, some apples and a hint of herbs. A both elegant and complex nose with great freshness.
Same notes are found on the palate where we also have a pure and precise acidity with both lime and lemon. The wine is energetic and mouthwatering and should age very well.
2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs
Stony blue slate and quartzite soil, producing small and concentrated grapes.
Dense and complex nose with layers of fruit where pineapple, apricot, lime and lemon are most apparent.
The acidity is rather racy and has lots of lime and lemon notes. This will probably calm down with time.
The wine is already well balanced but has a slightly more austere impression than the Frühlingsplätzchen GG at this time.
There is an amazing potential in this very complex wine, but you will have to be patient.
2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese
Rather open and ripe nose with saffron, tropical fruit and some sweet notes. Fresh but rather careful lime acidity and some white flowers on the palate.
Pleasant wine with good personality, but it lacks some precision.
2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese
Slim and precise nose with some light tropical fruit and apples. Precise and fresh lime acidity combined with fresh fruit.
This is a pure and fresh Spätlese in a classical style.
2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese
Notes of honeysuckle, white flowers and some melon. Careful tingling acidity which is just enough to carry the sweetness. On the palate we also find saffron and lime together with some floral notes.
This is rather slim Auslese that manages to stay fresh even with low levels of acidity.
The wines of Emrich-Schönleber are defined very much by their precise acidity and the pure and fresh fruit. We would consider them to be school book examples of top level German Riesling with a very classical style.
In a year where some producers get very high levels of fruitiness Emrich-Schönleber has managed to keep a very tight profile but still with fantastic fruit notes. We where very impressed by the wines and would recommend them to anyone looking for Riesling wines that can develop well with age.